History

Was Jesus Christ gay?

We all know that Jesus Christ, the son of God, hung out with multitudes of men, spent nearly all his time with “sinners” and had an affinity for rainbows. But was Jesus Christ a member of the LGBTQIA+ community?

According to several theologians, the answer is a resounding yes.

Dr. Reverend Bob Shore-Goss, openly gay pastor and author of Queering Christ, argues that Jesus’ rejection of gender codes alone is proof of his queerness. He claims that since there was no term for homosexuality in ancient times, the fact that Jesus did not ascribe to the rules of his culture implies a subversion of heteronormativity.

In addition, Shore-Goss believes that Jesus had a homoerotic relationship with the disciple he called “beloved.” [While this disciple is never named, it’s widely believed to be John.] In an interview with Vice, Shore-Goss elaborates on his theory by describing a particularly personal exchange between the two men just before Jesus’ death.

“The beloved disciple is lying on the chest of Jesus at the last supper and is supposedly in his inner tunic,” says Shore-Gross. “[This] is what we would call underwear today. It’s a very intimate gesture, and it’s a special gesture of affection between the two.”

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Photo Credit

(Jesus laying half naked with another man at dinner seems pretty gay to me, but what do others think?) 

Theologian Theodore Jennings, author of The Man Jesus Loved, also agrees that Jesus indisputably had relations with men as evidenced by the intimate biblical descriptions of the John. Aside from Lazarus, John is the only one ever referred to as “beloved” by Jesus. (Not too many platonic friends call each other beloved).

Gerard Loughlin, a queer theologian and religious scholar, takes Jesus and John’s relationship even one step further in his book Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body. He argues that Jesus and John were married and the famous parable, the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-11), is actually about their gay wedding. (Now wouldn’t that be quite the twist for the religious conservatives? They’d all have to end their marriages, repent and become gay themselves!) 

Shockingly, this theory was actually quite common during ancient times. Its popularity was perpetuated by the apocryphal Acts of John, which claim that John broke off his engagement to a woman in order “bind himself” to Jesus. 

In fact, the wide spread belief of Jesus and John’s queerness is well documented in surviving art from that time period.

In The Calling of St. John (12th century), the artist depicts two scenes: Christ coaxing John away from his female bride and John resting his head upon Jesus’ chest. Jesus, in turn, cups the chin of his “beloved” which, in artistic convention, is used to indicate romantic intimacy.  The Latin reads: “Get up, leave the breast of your bride, and rest on the breast of the Lord Jesus.”

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John the Apostle resting on the bosom of Christ,” Swabia/Lake Constance, early 14th century. Photo by Andreas Praefcke

But that’s not the only artistic display of Jesus and John’s affection for each other.

Medieval art is filled with images of Jesus and John embracing lovingly. [Click here for an in depth analysis of these works]  The first of which originated in German convents in the Rhineland and Swabia.

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“Christus Johannes Gruppe” (Christ John Group) by the unknown Master of Oberschwaben, oak sculpture, 1320.

This type of Christian iconography, where John rests his head against Jesus’ chest, is called “Johannesminne.” [Apparently, minne is a German word meaning “love.”] In an unpublished essay, Daniel G. Conklin, analyzes these types of images and claims their popularity stems from the display of affection between two men. He says, “The Johannesminne has become perhaps even more appealing in our day in which people of the same gender in committed relationships seek some form(s) of faith confirmation of who they are and whose they are.”

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“The Last Supper” by an unknown master, ca. 1500-05 at Sacro Monte di Varallo in Piedmont, Italty
Fascinatingly, Jesus and John’s relationship was even discussed in the 1500’s by the famous playwright, Christopher Marlowe. He was one of the first writers to empathetically depict a gay character and many assume Marlowe was gay himself. 
At the very least, the “Baines Note”,  a document written by British spy, Richard Baines in May of 1593, claims he heard Marlowe declare that Jesus was gay. 
The document goes on to disclose that Marlowe felt the purpose of religion was to intimidate, that he could have done a better job writing the New Testament and that Christian communion would be more satisfying if it were smoked in a tobacco pipe. A few days after Baines penned his note, Marlowe was stabbed to death in what is largely considered a governmental killing.
[The document is available in the latest phase of the British Library’s Discovering Literature project]
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Part of the Baines Note

Regardless of Jesus’ sexuality, his main teaching was to love one another. So let’s just keep doing that 🙂

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